John Wolseley and Mulkun Wirrpanda—Molluscs / Maypal and the warming of the seas
John Wolseley’s 2016 gift to Geelong Gallery of his ten metre long, six panel panoramic watercolour The pearl fisher’s voyage from Ise Shima to Roebuck Bay, 1985–89, was the catalyst for an immersive installation in which Wolseley and senior Yolngu artist and clan leader Mulkun Wirrpanda, extended their decade-long collaboration. Both artists share a profound sense of the beauty and fragility of the earth and its ecosystems, and in this project their works meditated especially on the mollusc as a powerful indicator of changing oceanic conditions and water systems.
Wolseley’s work included unique woodblock prints taken from swamp mangroves that bear the bored channels of ‘shipworms’, a widespread species of mollusc feared by 17th and 18th century naval explorers, including James Cook, for its capacity to consume a ship’s timber, rendering it dangerously unseaworthy.
Mulkun Wirrpanda’s lyrical bark paintings and larrikitj maintain knowledge about traditional foods sourced on land and in the waters, including 'shipworms'.